A Good-Natured Look at Short Term Memory Loss

Remembering Stuff

When I was young, I could memorize an entire Psalm. I could remember a dozen phone numbers and I never forgot anyone's name. I could read a passage of a book and picture the page with the words on it in my mind. But somewhere along the line, things changed.

Now my wife tells me to go to the market to get some things.

She says, "Bread, skim milk, cheese, toilet paper, napkins - "

I say, "Hold on there," because my memory has just dumped and I no longer remember the first thing she wanted. I know that if there are more than four items on the list, I will forget at least one of them. That's when I know it's time to write it down so that I don't forget.

Once in a while I can't remember one of my kids' names or call them by their sibling's name. Of the repetitive stuff I do all day, I cannot remember one thing. Customers say, "Remember last week when I ordered..." and I say, "No. What are you, crazy?" Luckily my computer remembers for me.

Yet recently when we drove down the New Jersey Turnpike to my wife's brother's house and missed our exit, I was able to remember the six or so turns I needed to make to get to our destination from where we ended up. My brother-in-law recited them to me over the phone, I visualized them, and then I was able to execute them in order.

So deep down at least some of my former ability to remember is still there. How has it changed and why?

Source

According to familydoctor.org I began to lose brain cells in my twenties and I probably lost more than my share if you know what I mean. My brain also started to make less of the chemicals my brain needed to work properly. Also I added other chemicals which probably did not help the process. All in all, a lose-lose-lose situation if I had been thoughtful about wanting to keep remembering stuff.

Familydoctor.org says that short term memory is not affected by memory loss occurring through the typical aging process which is bad news for me. They go on to say that certain activities I may or may not have engaged in as a misguided youth may have had an effect in that direction, so that may be the explanation.

Normal aging-associated memory loss mainly affects recent memory, such as remembering what you had for breakfast or the name of someone you met a few days ago.

To achieve the short term memory feat of remembering complex verbal directions under pressure with no pen and paper available:

  • I dug deep for focus
  • I quieted my mind
  • I bent all my willpower toward listening carefully and assimilating each change in direction

By maintaining my focus through the remainder of our journey I was able to recall the directions as they were given to me. This suggests to me that the reason I have trouble with short term memory is lack of focus. I think that my lack of focus comes from having too much on my mind.

If I start forgetting how to do stuff on a regular basis that I used to remember on a regular basis, or start repeating myself in conversation, or lose track of what's happening during the day, or start to have problems making decisions or handling my money, I can start worrying according to Familydoctor.org. They say that might be a sign of something more serious.

A recent NY Times article online (see link below) cites a study by North Carolina State University indicating that the power of suggestion also plays a role in age related memory loss. A group of people 60-82 year olds were divided into two basic groups. One group was told that they were taking an arithmetic and memorization test to determine the effect of aging on memory and were asked to write down their age prior to taking the test. The other group was just given the test. Guess what? The group that was simply given the test did decidedly better than the other group. What a surprise. So stop listening to people telling you that you are old and smarten up.

Keeping a Healthy Old Brain

A number of sources suggest the following to maintain a healthy brain into your dotage:

  • Exercise - physical activity, especially aerobic exercise, is associated strongly with extending brain health into one's "sunset years"
  • Involvement - work, volunteerism, projects - keeping busy keeps your brain busy and helps your neurons stay limber. Involvement also gives the individual a sense of control as they see that their effort achieves results.
  • Health - in addition to exercise, a healthy diet and reasonable weight control contribute to brain health over time
  • Learning - formal education or the acquiring of new skills helps exercise and revitalize the brain

So good luck to you as you gradually turn into an old geezer or hag, and please wish me the same. What did you say your name was?

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Comments 46 comments

LAmatadora (JJ) 7 years ago

don't feel bad Tom, I am the same. I cannot remember what I ate for lunch yesterday. My mind is like Swiss Cheese. I can remember certain events as if it were seconds ago. But plain everyday stuff...forget about it!!! =) I write everything down....all the time. And thats how I remember..lol


Pest 7 years ago

Helps to lay off of the booze Tom


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

No, no, I'm fine becoming an old geezer, LAmatadora. I'll make a good one!

What, Pest? Hmm. Brain/booze. Brain/booze. It's a difficult choice.


Frieda Babbley profile image

Frieda Babbley 7 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

Wishing you the same.

Not again... It's Frieda, Tom. Frieda Babbley. Remember? Your agent?

Hysterical and great info. Quite enjoyable. I hear brain games like that popular number game (the name escapes me now) are good for toning the neurons. What is that game called. You know, with the number and squares? I play it all the time. Okay, thinking this may be more serious than I thought.

Who are you again?


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

Who am I? Why am I here? LOL


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 7 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

This struck straight home! Off to play that game Frieda mentioned, you know the one!


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

Sodacracker, saltpeter, summersquash, sodoitalready...


Teresa McGurk profile image

Teresa McGurk 7 years ago from The Other Bangor

Yep. Even teenagers like me can suffer the conswquences of. . . what was your hub about, again?


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

I think I was writing something... I'm not sure. I'm so confused.


feeweewv profile image

feeweewv 7 years ago from Between A Dream And Reality

Ain't that the truth... I can't remember sh**!! I think it has a lot to do with lack of focus and too many things to do... maybe I have selective memory. Yep, that's it... wait, what were we talking about?


Paper Moon profile image

Paper Moon 7 years ago from In the clouds

So in essence bobby, you are saying something about the radishes being in the .... UM....


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

I know I left that package of Depends somewhere...


Jmell 7 years ago

I love Pest's remark! ditto! LOL, but as for remembering what the "wife" says....I'm not sure that's old age!


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

Ya, that might be married man disease, Jmell.


Iphigenia 7 years ago

I was worried until I read about the NY Times test and the comparative results of the two groups. Now I'm worried that people will keep telling me that 'm getting old and better smarten up etc - You have given me the perfect excuse to grow old disgracefully and be very rude and also a little bit naughty.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

Wow, what a great result! Go forth and be naughty and rude! Awesome!


Candie V profile image

Candie V 7 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

I can remember the past so clearly, yet, where my keys are??? Odd. I'm big into puzzles and challenging my self mentally. This has been great too! Thank you for this!


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

Oh the keys, the keys! Lost keys should be a form of torture, Candie! I enjoyed doing the research.


mayhmong profile image

mayhmong 7 years ago from North Carolina

Whaddaya mean we start losing it around the age of 20?! This is sooo true on my part. Guess I've become too brain fried from too much schooling.


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 7 years ago from St. Louis

Is writing on hubpages good or bad for the memory? Oh, well, it's when you forget how to wipe yourself that you really have to worry.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

That's what they say, May! For me it made a lot of sense. In my twenties I was a complete mess. Losing brain cells just seems logical!

Ya, Cristoph, I think HubPages would be a great memory gym. You're supposed to wipe yourself?


sixtyorso profile image

sixtyorso 7 years ago from South Africa

I started out with some scintillating agile comments on this hub about ..... duh! If it wasn't for the atavars on hubpages I would not know who I was. But who am I and who is this sixty something geezer?

Great hub Tom. addressing an issue which bugs us all.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

Being a geezer is not so bad. Thanks Sixty!


shibashake profile image

shibashake 7 years ago

You are lucky Tom, at least you had the glory days. I always had awful memory. When I was really young, I would hide my toys so my nasty brother couldn't get to them, and then promptly forgot where I hid them - lol. Since I started with nothing, I suppose I never really missed it :)

Very interesting NYTimes study. Power of suggestion is a very powerful thing. Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell is a very fun book in this area. If I weren't so lazy I would go back to school and major in social psychology :)


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

Ya, I went back to school when I was 43. That's tough, I'll tell you.

I had a good memory when I knew what was going on, but I was such a space shot I had no clue a lot of the time. I gues I can go from spacey to forgetful fairly seamlessly, I would imagine :0)


Candie V profile image

Candie V 7 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

Ya know the old saying "of all the things I've ever lost, it's my mind I miss the most!"


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

Ya, but how do you know?


Candie V profile image

Candie V 7 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

I didn't say I made up the saying, I was mearly a repeater of said message.. I say "Memory is the 2nd thing to go.."


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

I used to know what that meant...


Candie V profile image

Candie V 7 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

Someone (i can't recall who) told me I did too.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

Great hub. Great what? Hub? What's a hub?????????????


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

I think it's the middle of a wheel or something...


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

Oh........that's right. Thank you! Now who are you again?????????


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

I don't know, but I think I was supposed to get my meds about now...


sixtyorso profile image

sixtyorso 7 years ago from South Africa

About that thingy in the wheel (hub?) i am glad you are a spokesperson!


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

I prefer "poster boy"


Hawkesdream profile image

Hawkesdream 7 years ago from Cornwall

I am always putting stuff in a safe place, never can find it again,


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

I HATE that.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

I am with you. I must write down everything I need to do or I will forget them altogether unless the issue comes up afresh. But I can remember those numbers I memorized 30 years ago! Strange days. Good Hub. Thanks. I am not alone.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

It's just not right! But that's the way it is. Thanks for stopping by. And no, you are not alone.


Frieda Babbley profile image

Frieda Babbley 7 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

Crap, was I already here? Well, hi again, Tom.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

Excuse me, do I know you? :0)


sixtyorso profile image

sixtyorso 7 years ago from South Africa

Huh have I already read this hub and commented? duh!


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

(Should I tell him?) Yes, um, twice now, Sixty.


Frieda Babbley profile image

Frieda Babbley 4 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

Why did you send me here? I don't get it. Did I forget something? Do the flowers need watering? Did I forget to let the dog out? *hold on, do I have a dog?* Wait, have I been here before? This place looks so fami... *Oh THAT'S where I put the mail, the fridge, duh*. What was I saying? Oh yeah. Tom, it's your agent, Frieda. You never made it to the Poetry Slam bar mitzvah. It's the third one you've missed and Rabi Slim says it's not bearing well on your standing. Tom...? Tom...? O-ver here Tom. Look at me, Tom. Tom? Sigh.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 4 years ago from United States Author

You are too funny. You know what else is funny? I didn't even remember this hub! :)

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